Ethiopia’s ongoing conflict in the Amhara region has taken a new turn as the nation’s parliament voted on Friday to extend the state of emergency for an additional four months. Initially declared in August, the extension reflects the government’s continuing struggle to quell the insurgency led by the local Fano militia, which has led to significant loss of life and raised serious human rights concerns.
The unrest in Amhara began in July, escalating tensions between federal forces and the Fano militia, who accuse the central government of jeopardizing the region’s security. The conflict marks another challenging chapter for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration, following closely on the heels of a peace agreement in November 2022 intended to end a devastating two-year civil war in the Tigray region, which borders Amhara.
The state of emergency grants the Ethiopian government broad powers, including the imposition of curfews, movement restrictions, and bans on public gatherings. While the government claims to have regained control of urban centers from the Fano fighters, skirmishes persist in smaller towns and rural locales, indicating the complex and entrenched nature of the conflict.
The decision to extend the state of emergency came after the justice minister’s request and subsequent lawmaker deliberations, signaling the government’s determination to address the insurgency decisively. However, this move has also sparked fears of escalating human rights violations and a worsening humanitarian situation.
Documented by the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), allegations of abuses predominantly point to government forces. Reports in October highlighted civilian casualties resulting from drone strikes and aggressive house-to-house searches. While the government criticized the EHRC’s findings for a perceived lack of balance, EHRC head Daniel Bakele has expressed grave concerns over the potential human rights and humanitarian impact of prolonging the state of emergency.
This extension underscores the complex security and political challenges facing Ethiopia. It raises questions about the effectiveness of military solutions to regional insurgencies and the government’s ability to reconcile national security interests with the protection of human rights. As Ethiopia grapples with the aftermath of the Tigray conflict and the ongoing unrest in Amhara, the international community watches closely, hoping for a resolution that brings lasting peace and stability to the region.